Here Come the Prospects: Pirates and White Sox

When it comes to fantasy baseball, not all prospects are created equally. In keeper leagues and dynasty leagues it’s important to have strategies around your prospects; you don’t want to just randomly grab a Top 10 or 20 prospect and hope for the best.

Along with skill, knowing a player’s ETA is key. Is the player advanced enough to help in 2016… or is he headed for a 2019 debut? Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a talented dude but he’s not likely to visit the Great White North until 2020. Chicago (AL) drafted Carson Fulmer in 2015 with the eighth overall pick but he’s considered advanced enough to perhaps help the club in ’17. And then there’s Colorado’s Trevor Story, who is likely to turn the Jose Reyes soap opera and a strong spring into a ’16 starting gig.

As a result, your strategy around acquiring prospects should vary. If you’re grabbing a guy earmarked to help in 2017 or later, you should look at them like a stock — an investment that you hope to see increase in value before you cash out (either by adding to your active roster or by trading for an opportunity to win sooner). You also have to consider if you’re truly committed to a long-range prospect and willing to commit a roster spot to someone who may not help for three or four years — if at all. Prospects with a ’16 or ’17 should be viewed as players that can be valuable (albeit potentially inconsistent) contributors to the current makeup of your roster at a reasonable cost.

Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll have a look at the expect time frames for key prospects in each organization. So far we’ve looked at:


Pittsburgh Pirates

2016 Sleeper: Jameson Taillon, RHP: Previously the Pirates top prospect, Taillon disappeared for two years while dealing with Tommy John and hernia surgeries. The good news is that he’s back — showing the excellent fastball and curveball that he had prior to the injuries — and has looked good in two triple-A starts. Taillon has always had advanced control for his age and that has continued into 2016; he has yet to walk a batter in 10.1 innings. The development of the changeup is really the only thing holding him back at this point. The organization will likely want to watch his innings in 2016 so Taillon could be an impact arm for the Pirates as a reliever in the second half of the year.

2017 Stud: Austin Meadows, OF: Speaking of injuries, Meadows looked like he could potentially be an impact rookie in ’16 for the Pirates but a spring training injury likely derailed that potential. The young outfielder suffered a nasty eye injury that required surgery for an orbital fracture in the spring. After spending 2015 at both high-A and double-A, he will no doubt return to the latter level once he’s healthy (around early June). The lost development time — along with the Pirates’ outfield depth and the fact that Meadows doesn’t need to be protected on the 40-man roster for another year — will likely keep Meadows from making his MLB debut until 2017.

Long-term Investment: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B: Perhaps my favorite prep pick of the entire 2015 draft, Hayes was an absolutely steal with the 32nd overall pick. And he’s done nothing but hit as a pro with a combined .807 OPS as a teenager. He earned a promotion to full-season ball for the 2016 season and has hit .400 though his first 11 games. Hayes has a body that suggests he’ll eventually produce home-run pop but he’s currently limited to gap power. He has a good idea and eye at the plate, which keeps the swings-and-misses to a minimum given his experience level. The young third baseman shows enough on defence to likely stick at the position.

Chicago White Sox

2016 Sleeper: Jacob May, OF: The Sox doesn’t have many prospects in the system that scream “Impact potential!” but May could have an impact for his club in the second half of ’16 given his blazing speed. The surprisingly-good Sox club has decent outfield depth so the young prospect will likely have to break in as a defensive replacement or pinch runner — and we’ve all seen how valuable those can be late in the year and into the post season. On the down side, he has a fair bit of work to do to be an impact player at the plate (The Sox don’t have a very good track record for developing hitters).

2017 Stud: Spencer Adams, RHP: Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon make a very dynamic top of the rotation for the Sox and more help is on the way with Carson Fulmer (The club’s top pick in the ’15 draft) and Adams. The latter pitcher has a strong four-pitch mix and outstanding control, which helps his stuff play up even more. If he can find some of the extra velocity that he showed as an amateur, Adams could be a real weapon for the Sox as a No. 3 starter.

Long-term Investment: Jhoandro Alfaro, C: Alfaro is a similar prospect to that of his brother Jorge Alfaro, a catcher in the Phillies system (originally drafted by Texas). This Alfaro has a chance to be a special defender, in part due to his canon arm and solid receiving skills (especially considering he’s just 18). His ability to hit for average is in question but he already shows enough power potential to project 10-15 home runs during a full year.

We hoped you liked reading Here Come the Prospects: Pirates and White Sox by Marc Hulet!

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Whats the read on Tim Anderson for 2016? I saw he was recently hurt and not exactly lighting it up to start the year.